“Countdown to Zero” — or to War on Iran?

If I was president Ahmadinejad’s national security advisor, and he asked me what to do, I would tell him to acquire a nuclear deterrent.

— Professor John. J. Mearsheimer, July 9, 20101

John Mearsheimer’s imagined advice to Ahmadinejad leads to a simple and obvious conclusion. A country like Iran, which has been placed on the executioner’s list known as the “axis of evil” may have only one option if it is to survive. Get a nuclear deterrent – and notice Mearsheimer’s carefully chosen word is “deterrent.” The nukes need never be used, but they must be in one’s hand to keep one’s neck out of Empire’s noose. Given the fate of bloodied, ravaged and occupied Iraq, which did not get a nuke, and North Korea which did, the lesson is clear. It follows that the principal impulse for nuclear proliferation comes from the United States and Israel, since they are the countries now issuing threats of invasion, destruction, occupation and servitude, threats routinely carried out. This is a message that will not be found in the allegedly anti-nuclear flick Countdown to Zero, demonstrating one more time that the most effective lies are those of omission.

Countdown to Zero is now playing in a theater near you, at least if you live in a very “blue state” or a “blue neighborhood,” for example, Cambridge, MA, my hometown, or San Francisco. The movie is aimed squarely at the antiwar, anti-nuclear pro-Obama audience, which dwells therein and is all too susceptible to the “humanitarian” streak of imperialism. It is a very shrewd propaganda flick, as Darwin Bond-Graham demonstrated in his superb review,2 a film which in fact helps to pry open a little bit further the door to a war on Iran.

The film is divided roughly into two parts, the first warning of “nuclear terrorism,” emanating mainly from the brown-skinned world of Arabs and Muslims, although a few seconds are devoted to Japanese terrorists. The second part considers the possibility of an accidental nuclear war and the very fallible command and control systems for these instruments of mass murder. The problem is that these two issues are equated. A “terrorist” nuclear attack with one or even a few nuclear bombs would be a crime against humanity on the scale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But terrible as this is, it is quite different from the existential threat posed by the nukes of US and Russia, thousands of them on hair trigger alert, subject to all the vagaries of technical failure, misjudgment and miscalculation. An accidental or ill-considered nuclear exchange of this magnitude is of an entirely different scale, a slaughter worse than all the previous ones in human history combined, and a threat to the very existence of the species, given the real possibility of a nuclear winter. Osama bin Laden looks like a pesky mosquito compared to this danger. Countdown fails completely to draw that distinction.

The compulsory scenes of Muslim men chanting thanks to Allah for giving Pakistan the bomb were prominent in the Countdown, but Harry Truman’s televised speech to the nation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so vividly shown in the classic documentary Atomic Café, is missing. Truman told America that the Bomb was a great gift and that God had given it to us. In his enthusiastic praise of the pro-American Deity, dispensing radioactive hellfire even as Japan was scrambling to surrender, Truman did not thunder “God is great,” but he did not have to. The explosions that incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese were loud enough. America was out to show the world, and especially the Soviets, that it not only had nukes, but would not shrink from using its God-given gifts.

The segment of Countdown that deals with the possibility of a nuclear accident or miscalculation is of some worth and drew the participation of some well-meaning activists. In fact most people do not know how close we have come to nuclear Armageddon on more than one occasion since the end of the Cold War. But it seems to this observer that this segment was used to sell the demonization of Iran and the Muslim world in the earlier segment. It also seems that removing the thousands of US and Russian nukes from hair trigger alert, which is a major threat now, can be readily accomplished. Obama and Medvedev ought to be able to do it with the stroke of two pens. But the US and Russian heads of state are apparently unable to perform this simple act that would remove the sword of a nuclear Damocles dangling so dangerously above us. The is due to the modern culture of empire, in part a product of the missionary zeal of Western civilization, which runs deep from Washington all the way to Moscow.

Coming at this time Countdown appears designed in large part to scare those who are likely to be antiwar into supporting further moves by the Obama administration against Iran. The hoax of weapons of mass destruction, most notably nuclear weapons, was employed to frighten the American public into a war on Iraq. And now the same is being done with Iran. As “W” told us, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, …..” Well, you know.

  1. Israel’s Nukes Harm US National Interests.” by John Mearsheimer, July 09, 2010. The entire piece deserves reading but to put the quote in context, here is a slice:

    “There are going to be cases where it’s in Israel’s interest to do certain things, and not in America’s interest to allow Israel to do those things. And there is no issue I believe­ where that is clearer than the nuclear issue. As I made clear in my opening set of remarks, I do believe it was in Israel’s interest to develop nuclear weapons. By the way, I think it’s in Iran’s interest today to develop nuclear weapons. If I was president Ahmadinejad’s national security advisor, and he asked me what to do, I would tell him to acquire a nuclear deterrent. Is that in America’s interest?

    “Absolutely not.

    “Iran and the United States have different interests. No two states have the same interests. I believe it was in Israel’s interest to acquire nuclear weapons. But it was not then in America’s interest for Israel to acquire nuclear weapons and it is not in our interest now for Israel to have nuclear weapons.” []

  2. Disarmament for Some: Co-opting the Anti-Nuclear Movement.” []
John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for Dissident Voice, Asia Times, San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and others. Read other articles by John V..

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rehmat said on August 23rd, 2010 at 10:17am #

    The only obstacle in Zionazi war on Iran is that the US military analyst are not advising Ben Obama to wage suicidal war against Islamic Republic – because they fear that it would be second Veitnam and the worst part would be the ‘wipe off’ of Israel for the security of which Obama is being pushed by the neocons (mostly Jewish).

    Security correspondent Ronen Bergman reported in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s most popular newspaper, in July 2009 that former chief of military intelligence Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash said the Israeli public perception of the Iranian nuclear threat had been “distorted”. The use of blatantly distorted rhetoric about Islamic Iran as a threat to Israel – and Israeli intelligence officials’ disagreement with it – goes back to the early 1990s, when the Labour Party government in Israel began a campaign to portray Iran’s missile and nuclear programmes as an “existential threat” to Israel, as Trita Parsi revealed in his 2007 book “Treacherous Alliance”.

    Israel clearly cannot afford to risk a war with Iran without the assurance that the United States being committed to participate in it. That is why the Israeli lobby in Washington and its allies argue that Obama should support an Israeli strike, which would mean that he would have to attack Iran with full force if it retaliates against such an Israeli strike…….


  2. hayate said on August 23rd, 2010 at 8:20pm #

    The Iranian “assets” are too dispersed to effectively destroy them by conventional air attack. Likewise, a ground war to conquer the country is the thinking of a Napoleon or hitler invading Russia/USSR.

    The ziofascists/fascists could maybe get what they want with a nuclear attack, though. The only thing stopping ziofascist, inc. there is world reaction.

    Logic says the ziofascist bluster is bluff, but zionist chihuahuas hiding behind slow witted right wing pit bulls, are not noted for their logic.

  3. shabnam said on August 24th, 2010 at 10:30pm #

    {A country like Iran, which has been placed on the executioner’s list known as the “axis of evil” may have only one option if it is to survive. Get a nuclear deterrent – and notice Mearsheimer’s carefully chosen word is “deterrent.”}

    I agree with Mearsheimer’s view. According to the public opinion poll taken from the population of four ‘moderate Arab state’, by an Israeli, Telhami, and Zogby, shows that a nuclear Iran equipped with nuclear weapons is viewed positively against the Apartheid state in the region. The Arab population believes:

    {An overwhelming majority of Arabs believe that Iran has the right to develop nuclear weapons and should not be pressured by the international community to curtail its program. Even more telling, a majority of those polled this year say that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, the outcome would be positive for the Middle East. In 2009, only 29% of respondents viewed that as a positive. Most importantly, contrary to Countdown to Zero, that makes Iran as threat, they view the United States and Israel as the main threat in the world, and have lost their respect for Obama much faster than anyone could have imagined.

    Obama’s popularity has plummeted to 16% percent in ‘the moderate Arab states’ compare to 51 percent a year ago. This poll was taken from the population of ‘the Moderate Arab states’, where are not fed with heavy anti Iranian propaganda. Shibley Tehlami, the Israeli professor, used friendly countries to both Israel and the US, otherwise we would have seen less than 5% popularity for Obama, much less than Ahmadinejad and Erdugan, the Prime minister of Turkey.

    {The movie is aimed squarely at the antiwar, anti-nuclear pro-Obama audience, which dwells therein and is all too susceptible to the “humanitarian” streak of imperialism.}

    You are right again. The Zionist propaganda is using many Avenues to form public opinion among the Western population against Iran. They have used Hollywood, media, books, TV, Radio, Public Library and other means of propaganda to penetrate into minds of the public to make Iran as a threat, therefore, an enemy. However, since the Obama administration, one more avenue became easier to be conquered, mainly the left. The color revolution after the Iranian election based on election ‘fraud’ hoax, provided a golden opportunity to manipulate the ‘progressives’ to sell their war for Israel. They brought their agenda to the antiwar conference in Albany in July, 2010, but were not successful. According to Phil Wilayto:

    {There was a national conference called for Albany, New York, on the weekend of July, 23,24 and 25 that was to gather together as many of the peace organizations as possible and try to plan activities for fall and spring. It was expected that maybe about 250 people would show up; instead it was close to 800 people.
    At this conference, The Defenders initiated, along with the Fellowship for the Reconciliation and other groups, a resolution to encourage all the peace organizations — when they oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — to also include the demand of no war and sanctions against Iran. And that resolution passed unanimously.
    That was not totally unexpected; but a second resolution condemning the Iranian government for internal policies was defeated overwhelmingly because the argument was made successfully that the Iranian people have the right to determine their destiny and the role of the US peace movement, which exists in the country that is threatening Iran, is simply to prevent war and the sanctions and get the US off Iran’s back.
    It also, for the first time at a national peace conference, called for a complete end to all US military, political and economic support for Israel. That was very controversial; but it did pass with a very strong majority.}

    The closet Zionists among the ‘left’, like US and Israel are pushing for ‘regime change’, thus, their agenda is embedded within a stupid slogan which reads: ‘neither Imperialist war, nor theocracy’ was defeated at the conference in Albany. This slogan is shouted by ‘The campaign for Peace and Democracy, (CPD), Hands Off the people of Iran, HOPI and their supporters. A glance at CPD website reveals that this site, acts as US government front in my view, is devoted itself mainly to the countries where have been presented as ‘enemy’ to ignorant people in the West by propaganda, Iraq in the past and Iran at the present time, but has totally forgotten Israel, Palestine, and the ‘moderate Arab state, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The CPD’s concern is identical to US government’s war agenda.
    You write:
    {The film is divided roughly into two parts, the first warning of “nuclear terrorism,” emanating mainly from the brown-skinned world of Arabs and Muslims,}

    Most of the terrorist acts are executed by the US, Israel and their puppet Saudi Arabia in the region. The Palestinians were not the initiator of terrorism, rather it was Zionists who brought terrorism to steal Palestine and to bring the region under their control. As’sd Abukhalil in the following video presents the facts that it was the zionists who started terrorism in Palestine to bring Palestine under their control.


    Thank you for your article. We need to expose the lies of the Zionists and their stooges, black and white, as much as we can.

  4. shabnam said on August 24th, 2010 at 10:53pm #

    {the population of ‘the Moderate Arab states’, where are not fed with heavy anti Iranian propaganda.}

    Please omid NOT. should read: {where are fed with heavey anti ….}